Film Review: Volcom’s Psychic Migrations

monster-children-tom-carey-mitch-coleman-11Photos of Mitch Coleborn by Tom Carey / Words by Mike Jennings

Far out, this is a trip. A reeeeeal trip. Volcom’s newest surf film, directed by Ryan Thomas, opens with a drawn out introduction to the soundtrack of The Struggle of The Magicians, (a Gurdjieff-de Hartmann piano piece from a 1920s Russian ballet, according to Wikipedia) and right from there, we’re settled into this daydream-like aesthetic that never strays.

Moving from slow piano to a medley of shoe-gazey-psych as the Volcom surf-stars shred all over the world, it’s a full 17 minutes until we hear a song with vocals, just enough time to feel washed over and dazed, heartbeat lowered, to be hit square in the face by one of the best surf movie sections of perhaps the decade. But more on that in a sec, first we have to talk about Yago Dora.


Psychic Migrations will be remembered most for the arrival of the 19-year-old Brazilian. He’s been around for a while, but it’s here that he really makes his mark. He does the big things, he does with them with style, and he does them at important climactic points of the film, and he is undoubtedly the film’s star. You’d suspect that this performance will make him the first Brazillian surfer to be accepted by surfing’s hip-set. He’s just really fucken rad.

Dusty Payne is solid on rail, in the tube and happens to do one of the smoothest and most stylish air-reverses on film in some time. Alex Gray knifes South Australian and Pacific Ocean slabs like one of the world’s most accomplished barrel hunters that he is. Balaram Stack’s tube style is one of the best in the world. Parker Coffin charges. Andrew Doheny surfs with reckless abandon that is too fun to watch. While the performance of Mitch Coleborn is a total standout and second only to Yago—his sections in the South Oz Desert and the Mentawai Islands (alongside his Cluster section earlier in the year, and his possible qualification for the CT come 2016) puts in a case for him to be considered the hardest working and most bankable freesurfer in the world.


But it’s a section with Ozzie Wright, Nate Tyler, and Ryan Burch surfing incredible lefts in a Wintery South America that has the potential to go down as iconic. It’s the one that slaps you hardest in the face, pushing ten minutes while feeling like three, as the three goofy-footers surf a cold version of Desert Point. Pumping. Burch’s approach is entirely his own, functional and critical, while seeming like neither. All jelly-like on boards he’s shaped himself, it’s brilliant. Ryan Burch is brilliant, and one of the most interesting surfers getting around in 2015.

So often we hear talk of Kelly Slater’s longevity, his gift to surfing and surf culture, but something similar has to be said about Ozzie Wright in the freesurf world. It’s 11 years since Ozzie’s groundbreaking section in 7 Days 7 Slaves, and he hasn’t slowed down a smidge. His barrel riding and rail work, too often out shown by his pioneering aerial game, are on full display here. The dude’s a legend, and there’s no coincidence that the most entertaining sections of this film have Ozzie in them.


Psychic Migrations is a really interesting surfing movie. There’s a real commitment to a certain look and feel. There’s so many establishing shots—tight cropped 16mm vision of stones and sand and water, and slow motion intros to sections—that somehow watching the film starts feeling like a song from the soundtrack, building and building until it all comes together and gives you goosebumps. It doesn’t hurt that there doesn’t seem to be a trip Volcom did in the last 12 months that wasn’t absolutely firing.

A real trip, a psychic migration, an exercise in aesthetic, whatever, this is a beautifully put together scrapbook of the Volcom team over the course of a year, and one of the few modern surf movies that’s better the second time round.


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